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Building Bridges: In the Woods and in the Classroom

By Corey Wrinn

Gifford Family Memorial Forest in Orange offers a leisurely walk in dense forest with the soothing sound of the Tully Brook running along the trail system. Some might even venture to the fishing hole named after the late Senator Bob Wetmore. Until not long ago a key piece of the property had been missing: a bog bridge allowing hikers to cross the brook and explore the trails along either side of the water. For a while, sticks and other logs were laid down to make the crossing easier, but every visitor came out with very mucky boots by the end of their walk.

As I started my year, as a TerraCorps-AmeriCorps service member, I met with my college academic advisor from UMass Amherst who expressed interest in partnering with Mount Grace on a project for a civic engagement course. Bridging my connections paid off and it wasn’t long before four courageous students joined the Mount Grace Stewardship team to learn the value of trail maintenance by ways of constructing a bridge in a well loved and frequented natural area.

On a brisk October morning, KimLynn Nguyen, Steve Rawson, the students and I met at the site and began our project. We lugged three 200 pounds joists across the muddy stream, leveled base boards and placed the decking.  The students gained valuable stewardship and craftsmanship skills from using a power drill to handling heavy materials. Thanks to their efforts, our progress surpassed 85% complete to roll over into our second work day that finished the job. Go check it out yourself by visiting the property located next to Noel’s Nursery on Tully Road in Orange!